New German Pope Offers Hope for Sino-Japanese Relations
J. Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM)
After just two days of deliberation at the conclave to choose the new Pope, the 78-year-old German born Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has been elected as the new head of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics. He takes the name Benedict XVI and is one of the oldest popes ever. The new pontiff was seen as the front-runner to succeed the late John Paul II, who he had served as a top advisor for over 20 years.
At a time of great tension between Japan and China his election offers a glimmer of hope for future relations between the two peoples.
German Pope Benedict XVI was one of the late Polish Pope John Paul II's closest allies, even though the two men came from countries that have in recent history been bitter enemies. During the two men's lifetime, their countries were deadly foes. Germany was responsible for terrible wartime atrocities in Poland. Despite the painful experiences of their youth, the two formed a strong bond.
John Paul II was the first non-Italian Pope in 450 years and Benedict XVI now continues the trend. The strong bond between the two men demonstrates how it is possible to throw off the chains of history and work together in a positive way.
Benedict XVI is the first German Pope in almost 1000 years and the eighth German to hold the post. In his homeland there has been amazement and joy about a German assuming such a prominent global role.
The new Pope is noted for his traditional interpretation of the Catholic faith, and is opposed to abortion, homosexuality, priestly marriage and the ordination women priests. Liberal elements in the church have criticized him for his conservative views.
The news of his election has dominated the European and global media. He speaks ten languages and his election is certain to have a Europe-wide impact. In the past, he has argued that Turkey should not be admitted into the European Union, an issue which will dominate European political discourse in the coming decade.
He was chosen on only the third round of votes by the 115 cardinals, gaining at least 77 votes, or the support of two-thirds of his peers, for victory. All but three of the voting cardinals were picked by the last Pope. One of those three was the new Pope himself, who was named Cardinal of Munich by Pope Paul VI in 1977.
Grey-white smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel's chimney announcing his election. This tradition always causes confusion because the colour of the smoke is often difficult to discern. It is meant to be white when a new Pope has been elected and black when a round of voting has been inconclusive. When John Paul II was elected there was great confusion, so this time bells rang out to confirm the smoke was meant to be white.
After his selection, the new Pontiff gave a short address in Italian to tens of thousands of jubilant onlookers. He paid homage to his predecessor, and dear friend, the late Pope John Paul II.
He will be inaugurated as the 265th pope on Sunday.
Profile: Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger, was born in 1927 into a traditional farming family in Bavaria, a region of Germany. His father was a policeman.
At 14 years, he was obliged to join the Hitler Youth, but was an unenthusiastic participant. He was eventually drafted into an anti-aircraft unit in Munich.
In 1945, he deserted the German army, near the end of the war, and taken prisoner by the Allies.
In 1966, he took a chair in theology at the University of Tuebingen in Germany.
In 1969, he moved to Regensburg University in Bavaria, eventually becoming its dean and vice-president.
In 1977, he was named Cardinal of Munich by Pope Paul VI in 1977.
In 1981, he became the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition).
The Global legacy of Pope John Paul II